Calvin Pickard: Will He Get A Chance In Colorado?


Statistically, Calvin Pickard was the best Colorado Avalanche goalie in the 2014-15 season. Nevertheless, Reto Berra is still ahead of him on the depth chart. Will Pickard have to pursue an NHL career somewhere else?

In the past season, Calvin Pickard not only got his first NHL start, but he also happened to play some outstanding games for the Avalanche. In 16 games, the 23-year-old posted a .932 save percentage. As a comparison, Semyon Varlamov‘s was .921 and Reto Berra’s was .918.

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Nevertheless, Pickard was demoted to the AHL again and is expected to be the San Antonio Rampage’s starter for the 2015-16 campaign. The reason for that is very unfortunate for him. Reto Berra was signed as the team’s backup goaltender and still has two years on his one-way contract that pays him $1.45 million per season.

Until this summer, Calvin Pickard was on his two-way entry-level contract, which made it easier to demote him. If a player on a one-way contract is demoted to the AHL, his full cap hit generally counts toward his team’s salary cap. Players on a two-way contract, however, usually make less than ten percent of their NHL salary if they play in the minors.

As of today (July 18, 2015), Calvin Pickard is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign a new contract. However, his new deal will likely be cheaper than that of Reto Berra, since Pickard does not have a full season of NHL experience yet. Furthermore, the Avalanche will likely be looking to sign him to another two-way deal, keeping in mind that he projects to start the season in the AHL.

So when will he get his chance? Berra’s contract is valid until 2017. So if he proves that he has enough in his tank to play on the NHL level for two more years, it would be well possible that he stays ahead of Pickard on the depth chart.

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Depending on Pickard’s new contract, the Avalanche would have to make a decision on him and Berra as soon as possible. If they were to go with Berra as Varlamov’s backup, until they can either call up Spencer Martin or sign another free agent, that decision may involve trading Pickard. He is young and has proven that he has the potential to become a starter in the NHL within the next five years, so many teams would have interest in him.

That is, however, neither the only possibility nor do I think it would be the right one. As said before, Pickard was clearly better than Berra this past season — statistically, he was even better than Varlamov. The only thing that could prevent him from getting past his Swiss teammate is Berra’s contract.

Nevertheless, training camp is an open competition. Everybody gets a legit chance and while some players may have contract advantages, it is not impossible for rookies to make the team. So if Pickard simply proves that he is too good to stay in the AHL, he may get a chance to start the season as Varlamov’s backup.

If that were to happen, the Avs would have to figure out a way to get rid of Berra. After the upcoming season, they likely won’t have enough cap room to keep a player in the AHL that makes $1.45 million a season. The problem is that if Berra proves to be below NHL caliber or at least below average for a backup goalie, there won’t be a team that wants to pick him up.

In that case, either a buyout or a contract determination by mutual agreement would be options. Why would Berra do that? Well, he’s from Switzerland and teams back in Europe would lick their fingers for a goalie like him. So the chance is there for Pickard.

Whatever happens, training camp will be extremely important for both Calvin Pickard and Reto Berra. Depending on how the situation shakes out, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy will have to make a decision. From giving away Pickard, over giving away Berra and keeping them both, anything is possible.

How do you think the situation would be solved? Let us know in the comments!

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